Second OWI offense? The penalties can be serious.

Drunk Driving

You’ve been through this before. The first time you got charged with operating a vehicle while intoxicated (OWI), you paid a fine and lost your driver’s license for a few months. It wasn’t great, but it wasn’t such a big deal. This time, they’re threatening you with jail time.

How do drunk driving charges work in Wisconsin?

OWI charges in Wisconsin can be brought against you whenever you’re found operating any type of motor vehicle with a blood alcohol content of 0.08% or higher. That includes cars and light trucks, boats and recreational equipment. If you have a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08% or higher, this is called a “per se” violation of the state’s drunk driving laws. It’s also a separate offense called Prohibited Alcohol Concentration.

Having a lower blood alcohol concentration doesn’t mean you’re free to go, however. A law enforcement officer can also charge you with OWI based on other evidence of intoxication. For example, if you perform poorly on field sobriety tests, have slurred speech or smell of alcohol, there may be enough evidence to convict you of OWI.

Members of particular groups can also be charged with OWI at much lower blood alcohol concentrations. Commercial drivers, for example, can be charged with OWI if they exceed 0.04%, even if they weren’t driving a commercial vehicle at the time.

Anyone under 21 faces a “zero tolerance” law in Wisconsin, as in many states. In Wisconsin, they can be found guilty of OWI if they are found driving with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.02%, which is well below the level where a person would probably feel any effects from the alcohol.

What are the penalties for a second OWI?

If you have been convicted of OWI in the past 10 years, you can be charged with a second or subsequent OWI. The penalties for a second OWI quite a bit more severe than they were for the first, and they keep getting more serious the more convictions you accrue. For a second offense, they include:

  • Between 5 days and 6 months in jail
  • A fine of between $350 and $1,100
  • $435 OWI fee
  • A driver’s license revocation for 12-18 months
  • Ignition interlock device installed and maintained at your expense for 12-18 months

You should also be aware that the fines go up depending on your level of intoxication:

  • 0.17 – 0.199% – double fine
  • 0.20 – 0.249% – triple fine
  • 0.25% or higher – quadruple fine

You may qualify for an occupational license

If your driver’s license is suspended in relation to an OWI case, you may be eligible for an occupational license. This is a restricted license that you can use to get to work, school or certain other approved places. It can be used for only 12 hours a day or a maximum of 60 hours per week. Unfortunately, if you are convicted for a second OWI, you have to wait 45 days before you can apply for one, leaving you without a legal way to drive for more than a month.

A second-offense OWI is no joke, and you can’t afford just to plead guilty and hope for the best. To protect your rights and limit the long-term damage of an OWI charge, contact an experienced defense attorney as soon as possible after your arrest.

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